University of Denver, Sturm College of Law / Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute

Susan D. Daggett

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute has been in existence for more than 20 years and is in a transitional period.  Historically, the Institute has covered a wide range of topics in its annual land use conference, including landscape conservation.   At this point, however, there is no specific initiative relating to large landscape conservation.   Therefore, the answers to these questions will be general in nature, rather than related to a specific large landscape initiative.

Key Academic Disciplines 

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute conducts legal/policy analysis and sponsors training and educational programming on a wide range of issues relating to land use regulation.

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s most significant partner is University of Denver (DU) Law School and the Environment and Natural Resources Program.   The Institute also has a National and Regional Advisory Board, which includes leading thinkers in the land use and landscape conservation fields (including, for example, Peter Pollock and Matthew McKinney).

Initiative History and Champions 

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute was founded by a group of law professors, lawyers, and urban planners who were interested in influencing the regional conversation about urban growth and sprawl in the early 1990s. Over the last 3 years, the Institute has had 4 directors and has undergone several transitions.  I would say that now is the most critical point in the Institute’s history (since its inception) as we rethink our role in the region.

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

The most significant asset of the Institute is its annual land use conference, held every Spring at DU Law School.    The conference is one of the largest, and best of its kind in the country, attracting 400 or more planners, lawyers, developers, and others every year. The conference provides a unique forum for educating a broad spectrum of people generally engaged in land use about emerging issues and important trends.  In addition, our location in a law school, with access to law students and law faculty, provides some distinctive expertise.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

The annual land use conference has persisted and grown over the last 2 decades, and even in tough economic times, continues to be well-attended. The remainder of the Institute’s program (student instruction and applied research) is a work in progress. There is huge potential to harness our students and our partners in the private sector to influence land use policy, but at this point, the potential is largely untapped and we’re working to figure out the best path forward.

Transferability of the Initiative 

Not sure at this point.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

Not sure at this point.

Engagement Strategies 

The Institute engages all of these different groups through its annual conference, and is looking for ways to expand its outreach and education role in sponsoring additional workshops and seminars on emerging issues in land use. The Institute is also exploring ways of linking law students to local communities by structuring an advanced seminar around solving a land use problem.